The idea of moving to France is no longer just for the rich and famous. Ordinary people like you and me are making the move, too.
My story of living in France started ten years ago. I became one of the few Americans in Uzès – a small town near Nimes and Avignon in southern France. Uzès was known as “the pretty little medieval town near Pont du Gard.”
While my move to France was motivated by my burning desire to live in Uzès, there are “wannabe expats” today who have no idea where they would like to land in France. This list of favorites for English speakers may help.
Best Places For English Speakers To Retire In France
Paris is at the top of the list for English speakers who wish to live in France. It’s hard to imagine anyone who can resist the allure of the “City of Lights.”
The good news is that English proficiency among Parisians is pretty high. Overcoming the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges for newcomers. Speaking and understanding the French enhances every daily experience.
The rich cultural environment in Paris – museums, art galleries, and parks – caters to the interests of most American retirees. Access to many world-class cultural and recreational resources is a dream come true.
Paris is home to several neighborhoods that are particularly popular among Engish speakers. With its trendy boutiques and art galleries, the Marais district attracts multi-nationals looking for a lively, cosmopolitan experience. The 6th arrondissement, including the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, is known for a profusion of literary cafes, historical landmarks, gardens, and art galleries – an ideal choice for expats seeking a sophisticated, cosmopolitan environment.
The nightlife scene in neighborhoods such as Pigalle and Oberkampf offers various entertainment options, including theaters, music venues, and lively bars.
The Paris public transportation ensures easy access to attractions and landmarks throughout the city. Most importantly, Paris is a hub for airlines, trains, and other options for traveling to and exploring neighboring regions and for European adventures.
Let’s not forget the food! The city’s status as one of the world’s culinary capitals means you can indulge in exquisite French and World cuisine in Paris in renowned eateries and charming cafes.
Are you thinking about a life in Brittany? You’re in good company. This picturesque region in northwestern France has captured the hearts of Americans yearning for idyllic countryside living.
Brittany ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to choosing retirement lifestyles. For example, the old town of Quimper, with its cobblestone streets and medieval architecture, has a quaint, historic atmosphere. Rennes, on the other hand, attracts newcomers seeking a dynamic urban experience. Its town center overflows with vibrant markets and lively cultural activities.
As for housing costs in Brittany, the choices are various budgets. Morlaix has budget-friendly housing, including traditional stone cottages and cozy apartments. In contrast, the coastal town of Dinard is known for upscale residences with breathtaking sea views.
Brittany’s rugged coastline and stunning beaches make it a haven for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. From the Pink Granite Coast to the serene Belle-Île-en-Mer and the Breton countryside, there are ample hiking, cycling, and exploring opportunities.
Brittany is known for its warm community spirit. The region’s markets, festivals, and gatherings provide opportunities for residents to connect and engage with each other, giving expats a sense of belonging. With its well-preserved medieval architecture, the town of Vannes inspires residents to immerse themselves in celebrations of the region’s art and history.
This bustling city in southeastern France has the perfect blend of modernity and history that appeals to many Americans – city life with French charm.
Neighborhoods in Lyon cater to a mix of lifestyles and budgets. The Confluence district, known for its contemporary architecture and waterfront living, draws expats seeking a modern and vibrant urban experience. With its bohemian atmosphere and lively markets, the Croix-Rousse area attracts those looking for a more eclectic, artistic community.
As for affordability, Lyon has a range of housing options, from budget-friendly to upscale. The Guillotière neighborhood offers affordable apartments and small residences – an ideal choice for expats looking for affordable living within Lyon’s vibrant atmosphere. The upscale Presqu’île district promises a more luxurious living experience. Stylish apartments and exclusive amenities cater to residents seeking sophisticated, high-end homes.
Lyon is rich in cultural life, with dozens of theatres, performance venues, and museums. With its well-preserved Renaissance architecture and popular cultural events, the Vieux Lyon neighborhood provides residents a front-road seat to the city’s rich history and art scene.
If the pleasure of fine food served in some of the world’s best restaurants is your idea of retirement bliss, Lyon will not disappoint you. In 2021, Lyon had 21 Michelin-starred restaurants. You will never experience a lack of choice and variety when eating out in Lyon!
Lyon’s location near the Alps makes it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. From the volcanic region of Monts d’Auvergne to the renowned ski resorts of Chamonix, Lyon offers easy access to various outdoor activities and scenic landscapes. Its proximity to the French Alps provides the ideal combination of urban living and open spaces.
The Occitanie region is known for its relatively lower cost of living than others in France, making it an attractive option for retirees looking to make the most of their retirement savings.
However, weather is the “number one” reason expats head to towns and cities in Occitanie. Stunning summers and mild winters make the region a top spot for sun lovers.
Along with the climate comes picturesque landscapes and bountiful vineyards that stretch beyond the roadsides as far as the eye can see. Occitanie is France’s largest wine-producing and vineyard region. The historic villages and natural beauty of Occitanie offer a breathtaking backdrop for retirement life.
From the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees, the region’s rich cultural heritage – including historical sites, festivals, and a strong sense of regional identity – gives ample opportunities for residents to immerse themselves in the local traditions and customs.
A popular destination for Americans in Occitanie is Toulouse. Best known for its technology and aerospace industries, and where the Airbus passenger aircraft is made, Toulouse is very much a working city. “La Ville Rose,” or the “Rose City” because of the pink tint of its stoned architecture, Toulouse is considered by some expats (as well as the French) to be the most beautiful place to live in France.
Since Toulouse is France’s fourth largest city, there’s a rich diversity of cultures and nationalities. A heavy Spanish influence is visible, particularly in the architecture.
The area boasts some of France’s best schools, plus one of Europe’s oldest universities. The city has a lively nightlife thanks to its large student population and multiple universities in Toulouse. With plenty of festivals and cultural activities, such as theaters, museums, and gardens to visit, there’s never a lack of activities.
If coastal living with amenities is your retirement dream, Montpelier could be your next home. Sunny weather, stunning architecture, and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea are just a few of Montpellier’s perks. The cost of living is relatively low compared to other French cities.
Montpellier has a large student population and a diverse expat community, making it easy to meet people and build a network. An extensive public transportation system and low crime rate are more reasons to relocate to this charming, old city.
This rapidly growing city has been dubbed ‘The City of Youth’ with 43% of its residents aged 30 or younger, including around 70,000 students. Montpelier is home to several outstanding universities and educational institutes, including the oldest medical school in the West, functioning since 1220.
Though Montpelier is the capital of Occitanie and is quickly growing, it is still somewhat of a secret among tourists. Locals and expats have plenty of space to enjoy orchestra performances and musical festivals. The area’s hopping nightlife and the restaurants stay open extra late. As you roam the streets, you experience lively city life among 2,000-year-old monuments and 15th-century buildings with Gothic arches.
Uzès, and more
Small towns in Occitanie, such as Uzès, are seeing increasing numbers of Americans. The allure of living in a restored, medieval town is drawing the attention of retirees who want to settle in walkable and friendly places. The downside is a shortage of transportation options, such as train stations. However, they are within a few minutes’ drive.
For many Americans, a stone cottage with blue shutters in a quaint village in Provence is what dreams are made of. The region Peter Mayle made famous – known for its small villages, colorful markets, and fields of olives, lavender, and sunflowers – is as magical as it seems.
Several towns in Provence have become popular havens for English speakers. With its charming markets and tree-lined boulevards, Aix-en-Provence attracts an international community seeking cultural richness and modern amenities. Avignon, the home of the Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) and international art events, offers historic charm and contemporary vibrancy.
Arles, overflowing with Roman and Romanesque monuments and the Frank Gehry-designed Luma Foundation building, are joining the list of retirement towns in Provence.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, celebrated for its stunning landscapes and strong connection to Vincent Van Gogh, draws newcomers into the joys of art, history, and Provençe. Gordes stands on a hilltop beaconing new arrivals, and the village of Lourmarin invites retirees to explore the region’s ancient legacy. French lifestyle emphasizes leisurely meals, social gatherings, and local events and provides opportunities to build meaningful connections with neighbors and fellow residents.
Pick A Favorite
In summary, Paris’s thriving economy, diverse expat neighborhoods, efficient transportation system, vibrant nightlife, English proficiency, cultural richness, European connectivity, and culinary excellence collectively make it an enticing destination for American retirees. If you’re drawn to historic charm, scenic coastlines, and a vibrant cultural scene, Brittany promises a fulfilling and enriching experience.
Lyon offers an exciting and inviting opportunity for American expats looking to embrace the French joie de vivre in a dynamic and inclusive urban environment. For the best weather, budget-friendly housing, and a broad range of communities with unique identities, Occitanie is a good choice. If you seek a tranquil and welcoming expat lifestyle in a quaint French village, Provence may be for you.
Whatever your choice, there will be some challenges. Language, cultural differences, and confusing administrative procedures are inevitable. Learning the French language and understanding the local customs can significantly enhance the experience of living in France. Come with an open mind and a sense of adventure. In time, the rest will fall in place.